5-31-14 Hodgepodge

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Judging Edward Snowden

Peter Schwartz argues that "what Edward Snowden has done is worse" than the mass surveillance of Americans illegitimately undertaken by the NSA:

Snowden stole over a million classified documents, the majority of which pertained to NSA spying, not on U.S. citizens but on legitimate targets abroad, from the Taliban to the Iranians. By disclosing the methods used by the NSA, Snowden made it easier for those targets to evade future surveillance.
Schwartz proceeds to argue at length that Snowden did this, animated by standard left-wing Anti-Americanism.

Amy Peikoff disagrees, starting her rebuttal as follows:
First, [Schwartz] notes that Snowden stole over one million classified documents, many of which concern legitimate NSA surveillance programs. But I doubt that Snowden, working covertly, had the luxury of sifting through the million-plus potentially relevant documents. He may have had a window of only a very few minutes to download what he needed. Moreover, Snowden has given permission for only a fraction of the total documents to be released and Glenn Greenwald has said that he and the other journalists have heeded Snowden's wishes (more on Greenwald in a minute). Finally, it may be true that revealing information about the NSA's methods -- some of which it uses legitimately -- could make a terrorist's job easier. But if revealing those methods is necessary to alert the American people to the injustice committed by the NSA, then so be it.
Both posts make interesting reading. Not having followed this story closely, I will refrain from offering an opinion on Snowden's motives.

Weekend Reading

"[I]f you picked your friend wisely, the both of you will be better for it." -- Michael Hurd, in "Business vs. Friendship" at The Delaware Coast Press

"... I've come to the conclusion that the best way to raise financially responsible children is to teach them cause and effect." -- Michael Hurd, in "Teaching Kids the Value of Money" at The Delaware Wave

"Thus we reach the opposite of Piketty's conclusion: a high rate of profit is caused by government crimes against the producers." -- Harry Binswanger, in "Statistics Aren't Enough to Discredit Piketty's Failed, Blood-Soaked Ideas" at RealClear Markets

"Before the invention of Solvadi, no amount of money could have made it available." -- Amesh Adalja, in "The Price is Right: New Hepatitis C Drug is Really a Priceless Breakthrough" at Forbes

"Recently, the patent licensing business model has taken center stage in the public policy debates in a way not seen since the [nineteenth] century (when the popular rhetorical epithet was 'patent shark')." -- Adam Mossoff, in "Thomas Edison Was a 'Patent Troll'" at Slate

"As a physician, I'm especially disturbed by the system of 'performance pay' which rewarded doctors who limited the number of patient follow-up visits." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Three Factors that Corrupted VA Health Care" at Forbes

"But as Avik Roy has pointed out in this excellent round-up, what we do know is disturbing. The pattern of falsified records apparently spans multiple centers in multiple states." -- Paul Hsieh, in "VA Denies Coverage for US Air Force Veteran With Malignant Brain Tumor" at Forbes

My Two Cents

Adam Mossoff does Americans a great service by demonstrating that so-called "patent trolls" are, in fact, merely practicing a venerable (and highly effective) form of division-of-labor through the practice of licensing. Based on some of the things I have seen in the tech press, many inventors and entrepreneurs would do well to read it.

Too Late?

I am tempted to cite the below, from an article about speeding up America's Passtime, as a textbook example of why I don't watch much baseball...
On May 21, a "confrontation" between Cleveland pitcher Josh Outman and Detroit catcher Bryan Holaday took only five pitches but lasted almost three minutes. Here are my notes from that at-bat: "Holaday swings and misses. Holaday steps out and adjusts the Velcro on his batting gloves. Holaday swings and misses. Holaday steps out and adjusts the Velcro on his batting gloves. Ball low. Holaday steps out and adjusts the Velcro on his batting gloves. Outman steps off the rubber. Foul. Holaday steps out and adjusts the Velcro on his batting gloves. Groundout."
... but my alma mater is a baseball factory, and I gained an appreciation for the game from some great commentators one year when we won the College World Series. I do laugh about such nonsense, but I do hope this gets reigned in.



Today: (1) Added two omitted Hsieh op-eds to the "Weekend Reading" section. (2) Corrected typos.


Grant said...

Baseball is slow these days because more people are more like Peter Keating these days. They are motivated by recognition, not success, and therefore they - as batters - approach an at-bat with visions of dramatic accomplishment permeating their subconscious. Well over a century of the sport's history has shown that a successful hitter means playing percentages. The object is to put the ball in play as much as possible, content in the knowledge that if you do, a "successful" percentage (ie: a percentage greater than other guys') of the balls put in play will be either indefensible or very hard to defend (ie: hits). Yes, sometimes, you will hit the 500 foot home run, or the bases clearing triple, but that's not your motivation. Your motivation, each any every time, and especially regardless of context (score, inning, runners on base, etc), should be to put the ball into play with a reasonable degree of "squareness" (ie: avoiding things like weak, dribbling ground balls or pop ups - which basic mechanical aptitude should prevent anyway). Babe Ruth, for example, was one of the greatest home run hitters of all time - and yet he also had a very high batting average (substantially higher than more contemporary hitters with comparable home run numbers). Subconsiously he was motivated by success (ie: putting the ball in play), and as a result he also did things (ie: hit home runs) that - incidentally - caused him to be recognized. Most contemporary baseball players, consciously, would absolutely agree with this "old school" philosophy - but subconsciously they just can't help themselves. They have to "slow things down" (ie: step out, adjust gloves, etc) because they want to get in a state of mind that (they think) will produce that "perfect swing", which will cause the "perfect hit" - and therefore garner the most approval from others (even if, ironically, it won't - because it isn't a point in the game where a dramatically successful will impact the outcome of the game).

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the analysis, Grant. I had always regarded many players as superstitious, but had not thought of how the Platonic idea of "perfection" could bring it about.